Orlando Sentinel

For Biden, partnershi­p pitch after rocky stretch

Appeal for unity to ruffled allies may run into skepticism

- By Aamer Madhani

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden goes before the United Nations this week eager to make the case for the world to act with haste against the coronaviru­s, climate change and human rights abuses. His pitch for greater global partnershi­p comes at a moment when allies are becoming increasing­ly skeptical about how much U.S. foreign policy really has changed since Donald Trump left the White House.

Biden plans to limit his time at the U.N. General Assembly due to coronaviru­s concerns. He is scheduled to meet with Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Monday and address the assembly on Tuesday before shifting the rest of the week’s diplomacy to virtual and Washington settings.

At a virtual COVID19 summit he is hosting Wednesday, leaders will be urged to step up vaccine-sharing commitment­s, address oxygen shortages around the globe and deal with other critical pandemic-related issues.

The president also has invited the prime ministers of Australia, India and Japan, part of a Pacific alliance, to Washington and is expected to meet with British Prime Minister Boris Johnson at the White House.

Through it all, Biden will be the subject of a quiet assessment by allies: Has he lived up to his campaign promise to be a better partner than Trump?

Biden’s chief envoy to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, offered a harmonious answer in advance of all the diplomacy: “We believe our priorities are not just American priorities, they are global priorities,” she said Friday.

But over the past several months, Biden has found himself at odds with allies on a number of high-profile issues.

There have been noted difference­s over the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanista­n, the pace of COVID-19 vaccine-sharing and internatio­nal travel restrictio­ns, and the best way to respond to military and economic moves by China. A fierce French backlash erupted in recent days after the U.S. and Britain announced they would help equip Australia with nuclear-powered submarines.

Biden opened his presidency by declaring that “America is back” and pledging a more collaborat­ive internatio­nal approach.

At the same time, he has focused on recalibrat­ing national security priorities after 20 years marked by preoccupat­ion with wars in Iraq and Afghanista­n and thwarting Islamic terrorists in the Middle East and South Asia. He has tried to make the case that the U.S. and its democratic allies need to put greater focus on countering economic and security threats posed by China and Russia.

Biden has faced resistance — and, at moments, outright anger — from allies when the White House has moved on important global decisions with what some deemed insufficie­nt consultati­on.

France was livid about the submarine deal, which was designed to bolster Australian efforts to keep tabs on China’s military in the Pacific but undercuts a deal worth at least $66 billion for a fleet of a dozen submarines built by a French contractor.

French President Emmanuel Macron has recalled France’s ambassador­s to the U.S. and Australia

for consultati­ons in Paris. France’s foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said Australia and the United States had both betrayed France. Biden and Macron are expected to speak by phone in the coming days, a French government spokesman said.

Biden administra­tion and Australian officials say that France was aware of their plans, and the White House promised to “continue to be engaged in the coming days to resolve our difference­s.”

But Biden and European allies have also been out of sync on other matters, including how quickly wealthy nations should share their coronaviru­s vaccine stockpiles with

poorer nations.

Early on, Biden resisted calls to immediatel­y begin donating 4% to 5% of stockpiles to developing nations. In June, the White House instead announced it was buying 500 million doses to be distribute­d by a World Health Organizati­on-backed initiative to share vaccine with low- and middle-income countries around the globe. Biden is soon expected to announce additional steps to help vaccinate the world.

Allies among the Group of Seven major industrial nations have shown differing levels of comfort with Biden’s calls to persuade fellow democratic leaders to present a more unified front

to compete economical­ly with Beijing. When the leaders met this year in England, they agreed to work toward competing against China. But there was less unity on how adversaria­l a public position the group should take.

Canada, the United Kingdom and France largely endorsed Biden’s position, while Germany, Italy and the European Union showed more hesitancy.

Biden clashed with European leaders over his decision to stick to an Aug. 31 deadline to end the U.S. war in Afghanista­n, which resulted in the U.S. and Western allies leaving before all their citizens could be evacuated from Taliban rule.

 ?? EVAN VUCCI/AP ?? President Joe Biden will address the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday during the world body’s gathering this week in New York City. He is also scheduled to host a virtual COVID-19 summit and meet with global leaders at the White House.
EVAN VUCCI/AP President Joe Biden will address the United Nations General Assembly on Tuesday during the world body’s gathering this week in New York City. He is also scheduled to host a virtual COVID-19 summit and meet with global leaders at the White House.

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